Three Irish Books You Should All Read & Three Books I Want To

Today is St Patrick’s Day and I thought it would be a nice idea to share some Irish books that I have loved with you all. Initially I thought this was going to be easy, after all I am a huge fan of Irish books. Well, while in my head this is true I discovered (whilst researching for next week’s episode of The Readers) that I haven’t read as many Irish novels or authors as I thought I had. It is weird when our brains do this isn’t it? Anyway, I decided I would share three books by Irish authors I have loved and also address this unknown-until-now imbalance by sharing three books by Irish authors I really want to read. First up my top three favourites, links to full reviews in the titles…

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

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I found A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing a book that confused, then compelled and finally confronted me. Not just because of the subject matter but also because it made me rethink the way I read. The abstract sentences and initially rather confusing style start to form a very clear, if quite dark, picture. You just need to reset your brain and allow it to do the work, or working in a different way. This is of course the point of prose after all, it shouldn’t always be spelt out just so and I hugely admire (and thank) Eimear McBride for writing such an original and startling book which will reward intrepid readers out there greatly. Tip – read it out loud to yourself. I am very excited about seeing the play in two weeks with my pal, and colleague Jane, should be something quite special. You can hear Eimear talking about the book on You Wrote The Book here.

Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

I am not going to hold back I loved ‘Brooklyn’. I thought Toibin’s style of prose and narrative was simple and beautiful. I was totally and utterly engaged throughout the whole book. I liked and believed in all the characters and I loved the subtle simple plot. In fact ‘subtle and simple’ are possibly the perfect two words to sum this book up for me. Yet at the same time it’s quite an epic novel and one that covers a huge amount in fewer than 250 pages. With characters, plot and backdrops like this I would be amazed if you could fail to love this book. Sadly I have yet to get Colm Toibin on You Wrote The Book, but one day, one day. I should also add I absolutely LOVED the film too, which is unusual for me, it was one of my movies of 2015.

The Good Son – Paul McVeigh

9781784630232

Whilst many novels of the Troubles would make them the main focus and give you them in all their rawest and most shocking detail, I think McVeigh gives you something far more clever and intricate. A young lad growing up at the time Mickey does would, as Mickey is, be used to it and so it is not the be all and end all of his thoughts. This of course leads us into a false sense of security so when things like the night time raids or the murder and bombing in the street happen it gives us all the more of a sense of shock, some of these parts of the novel are really harrowing reading. Yet often more striking are the random smaller moments in which we are reminded the streets the kids are playing in are territory of war, I found these truly chilling. I also found the novel incredibly hopeful, funny and is probably the book I would recommend to anyone wanting to dip their toe in Irish waters fiction wise if they have not already. You can hear Paul talking about the book on You Wrote The Book here.

And now onto the three Irish books which I am most looking forward to, shamefully I have stolen their blurbs from Waterstones (who as I now blog for I am sure won’t mind, as they nicked them off the backs of the books anyway. They are…

The Little Red Chairs – Edna O’Brien

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When a wanted war criminal from the Balkans, masquerading as a faith healer, settles in a small west coast Irish village, the community are in thrall. One woman, Fidelma McBride, falls under his spell and in this astonishing novel, Edna O’Brien charts the consequences of that fatal attraction. The Little Red Chairs is a story about love, the artifice of evil, and the terrible necessity of accountability in our shattered, damaged world. A narrative which dares to travel deep into the darkness has produced a book of enormous emotional intelligence and courage. Written with a fierce lyricism and sensibility, The Little Red Chairs dares to suggest there is a way back to redemption and hope when great evil is done.

Beatlebone – Kevin Barry

9781782116165

He will spend three days alone on his island. That is all that he asks …John is so many miles from love now and home. This is the story of his strangest trip. John owns a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland. Maybe it is there that he can at last outrun the shadows of his past. The tale of a wild journey into the world and a wild journey within, Beatlebone is a mystery box of a novel. It’s a portrait of an artist at a time of creative strife. It is most of all a sad and beautiful comedy from one of the most gifted stylists now at work.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baume

9780099592747

You find me on a Tuesday, on my Tuesday trip to town. A note sellotaped to the inside of the jumble-shop window: Compassionate & Tolerant Owner. A person without pets & without children under four. A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Ray, aged fifty-seven, ‘too old for starting over, too young for giving up’, and one eye, a vicious little bugger, smaller than expected, a good ratter. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast – but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they’d established, and take to the road. Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a wholly different kind of love story: a devastating portrait of loneliness, loss and friendship, and of the scars that are more than skin-deep.

So there are my picks both for you to read, if you haven’t, and me to read in the months ahead. If you have read any of these do please let me know your thoughts. I would also love to hear what your favourite Irish novels and/or novelists are that you would recommend I, or anyone reading this, give a whirl.

9 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

9 responses to “Three Irish Books You Should All Read & Three Books I Want To

  1. I have ‘Half Formed Thing’ and ‘Brooklyn’ on my TBR pile. Recommend you check out Jan Carson. Her recent short story collection, ‘Children’s Children’, is wondrous.

  2. Try the oh so excellent Adrian McKinty’s Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy’s series: crime literature at its best, set in Belfast ( and Northern Ireland especially Carrickfergus) during The Troubles. They bring a very puzzling and dark period of our history to life for me, entertaining, pleasing and enlightening. They are atmospheric, believable, interesting, memorable. And another way of looking at some huge historic events, including the Brighton hotel bomb that almost assassinated Margaret Thatcher. . Adrian McKinty was born and brought up in Carrickfergus so truly knows of what he describes.

  3. I am adding The Good Song to my list to read. It sounds too good to miss.

  4. I look forward to Brooklyn! So far my favourite Colm Toibin is The Heather Blazing …quiet and powerful. And everyone should read Deirdre Madden! Especially Time Present and Time Past and of course Molly Fox’s birthday….

  5. I’ve read and reviewed the three you want to read. Beatlebone was my favourite read of 2015, and Spill Simmer made my top 10 list. I was slightly disappointed by the O’Brien, as I thought she was trying to do too much, but it was still a good read.

  6. Oh, I ought to read more Irish fiction as well. I rarely pick them up but nearly all the ones I have read are uniformly lovely and lyrical. Sebastian Barry and William Trevor come to mind.

    The plot of The Little Red Chairs has sucked me deep into booklust. I should check if it is available at the big bookstore here in Jakarta.

    (Not to mention, your post reminds me that I need to read Christine Falls by Benjamin Black aka Irish John Banville, which has been unfairly ignored on my shelf for too long)

  7. A Girl is a Half Formed Thing has stayed with me ever since I read it, a remarkable book.

  8. chatebooks

    Thanks for sharing! I haven’t heard of the authors mentioned except Sara Baume. But the books listed above sound interesting. Will definitely add these to my to-read list this 2016. ChatEbooks poseted: https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-Books-to-Read-in-2016-7-Titles-To-Add-To-Your-Reading-List

  9. Thanks for the tips. I going to check out these books.

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